On-farm accidents in busy Westpac chopper Christmas, New Year period

LOOKING UP: The new chopper fleet has more speed and endurance. Photo: Peter Hardin 221217PHC068
LOOKING UP: The new chopper fleet has more speed and endurance. Photo: Peter Hardin 221217PHC068

THE Westpac chopper’s 35 missions in 11 days over the Christmas and New Year period included two on-farm accidents and many more in rural locations.

Spokesman Barry Walton said the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service had “covered off on quite an array” of tasks during the holiday break.

A fall from a flying fox, a beacon search for bushwalkers and a paragliding accident were also among the missions during that time.

The service had flown those missions from its three bases in Belmont, Tamworth and Lismore, Mr Walton said.

“Many of those missions related to rural areas, but there were two on-farm: a dirt bike and a horse accident,” he said.

“The Christmas and New Year’s period has been a busy time for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter across northern NSW.”

Mr Walton said the regions – particularly more remote locations – were benefiting from the introduction last year of the new Augusta Westland AW139 helicopters.

“There’s more endurance, a bit more speed ... retractable wheels which give better airflow,” he said.

“The rotor system on top is five-bladed and the tail is four-bladed; that gives a bit more speed to aircraft performance.

“It’s been been designed for aeromedical as well as offshore work.”

Mr Walton said the aircraft combined had reached more than 2000 engine hours since the fleet upgrade began in March 2017.

“We’re on call now 24/7, and each helicopter has a pilot, crewman, doctor and paramedic on board, there for the benefit of the community,” he said.

Among the people the service helped in this region during the holiday period were:

  • a 59-year-old female who sustained head injuries after falling off a height at Coonabarabran;
  • a 55-year-old female who suffered multiple injuries in a motor vehicle accident on Thunderbolt's Way, south of Walcha; she was flown to John Hunter Hospital; and
  • a man in his 20s who also suffered multiple injuries in the crash; he was taken from Armidale to John Hunter Hospital.

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